Deal values holiday firm at £130m

A LEISURE company founded by two entrepreneurs which now owns and operates 19 holiday parks across the southeast, including Suffolk and Essex, has been sold for £130 million.

A LEISURE company founded by two entrepreneurs which now owns and operates 19 holiday parks across the southeast, including Suffolk and Essex, has been sold for £130 million.

Cinque Ports Leisure Ltd, based near Hastings and founded by Peter Bull and Jim Watson in 1985 when they bought a site near Rye in Sussex, has been bought by private equity firm Graphite Capital.

Cinque Ports' turnover topped £41 million in 2005. The sale allows Jim Watson to retire from the business, while Peter Bull will continue to help spearhead the group's acquisition programme.

Mr Bull, who has put a “substantial” proportion of his windfall back into the business, said he was looking forward to working with Graphite.


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Graphite Capital is planning an “aggressive” expansion of its network of holiday villages. Future growth is planned through further caravan sales and upgrades, the exploitation of undeveloped pitches, providing additional central facilities such as restaurants, bars and entertainment, and through strategic acquisitions.

Cinque Ports' centres include Felixstowe Beach Holiday Village, Suffolk Sands Holiday Village, also in Felixstowe, Oakland Holiday Village, near St Osyth, St Osyth Beach Holiday Village, Seawick near Clacton-on-Sea and Steeple Bay Holiday Village, near Maldon. It also owns parks in Dorset, Hampshire, Kent and Sussex,

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Mick McDonagh of KPMG Corporate Finance, who advised on the sale, said Cinque Ports was “an outstanding group” that they knew would attract significant interest from prospective buyers. “It became clear that Graphite Capital recognised the quality of the underlying business,” he added.

Graphite Capital partner David Williams described Cinque Ports as “an attractive, high margin, asset-based investment with a good track record and scope for considerable growth in the future under its new management team”.

“Holiday parks offer a very attractive investment opportunity in the domestic leisure market spurred by increasing demand for second holiday homes as well as short break and extended weekend holidays,” he added.

In a separate deal, the Cliff House Caravan Park at Sizewell has been sold following the retirement of the previous owners.

The park, which has 62 serviced static pitches, 60 touring pitches and shop, restaurant and leisure facilities plus owners' accommodation, has been sold through Savills Leisure to another family business for close to the guide price of £1.375million.

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